Charles Wyly dies in traffic accident

by Curtis Wackerle, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Well-known entrepreneur and philanthropist Charles Wyly died Sunday after a traffic accident on Highway 82.

Wyly, 77, was making a left turn out of the private aviation area of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport onto the highway when his Porsche Targa was struck on the driver’s side by a Ford Freestyle traveling upvalley. Wyly was advancing from the stop sign at the intersection of Airport Road and Highway 82 when the mini-SUV — traveling on the highway — T-boned his sports car. The accident occurred at 10:50 a.m.

Wyly, who owned a ranch in Wood Creek, was transported to Aspen Valley Hospital where he died of his injuries just after noon. The official cause of death is pending an autopsy, according to the Pitkin County Coroner.

The driver of the Ford, Genezi Lacerda, 40, of Snowmass Village, sustained moderate injuries and was also transported to Aspen Valley Hospital.

Both drivers were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash. Alcohol and drugs are not suspected to be factors, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

The crash, and the speed of Lacerda’s vehicle at the time of the collision, remains under investigation, according to Colorado State Patrol spokesperson trooper Heather Cobler. No charges had been filed Sunday evening against Lacerda, Cobler said.

Wyly, of the billionaire Dallas family, worked with his brother Sam in numerous fields. Both worked for IBM in the early 1960s — in the days of vacuum tubes and the earliest transistors, brother Sam Wyly said. They went on to work together in numerous fields, including oil and gas, retail and restaurants.

“In terms of work, he created several companies and built them up,” Sam Wyly said. “He really enjoyed that.”

Wyly was originally from Delhi, La.

The two brothers attended church together Sunday morning at Aspen’s Christian Science Society. After that, Wyly ran an errand to the airport to pick up a cup of coffee and the Sunday paper, as he was accustomed to doing, Sam Wyly said.

“He always saw the good in other people,” Sam Wyly said, adding that his brother’s greatest joy was his family. “He was just a very decent guy and kind, as well as a strong guy.

“ ... He expressed a lot of love. People just felt good being around him.”

Wyly

Philanthropy wise, Wyly was a regional board member of the Salvation Army for some 40 years, Sam Wyly said. He still took time to ring bells for donations for the organization at a Dallas shopping mall during the holidays, Sam Wyly said.

“He was convinced that a dollar [given to the Salvation Army] was well invested,” Sam Wyly said.

Wyly’s philanthropy also included the Wyly Community Arts Center in Basalt. Charles and wife Caroline “Dee” Wyly’s names grace a theater at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas, and Wyly served on the boards of theater organizations in Dallas for more than three decades.

Sam Wyly also bought Explore Booksellers in Aspen in 2007 when the store’s continued existence was in doubt.

Charles Wyly first came to Aspen in the 1960s. Sam Wyly recalled his first visit to Aspen to see his brother shortly thereafter, and taking a ride up the backside of Aspen Mountain on a dirtbike. When asked why his brother loved Aspen so much, Sam Wyly joked, “Have you seen the temperature in Dallas today?”

Wyly bought his property in Woody Creek in 1982 and the day he moved in, the home was christened with the wedding of one of his daughters, according to a family member. He typically spent most of the summer in the Aspen area, as well as Christmas. He skied as much as he could, making trips whenever possible in the winter.

The Wylys became known for their donations to Republican political causes in the 2004 presidential election, but Sam Wyly also gave $500 to Sheriff Joe DiSalvo’s campaign last year.

The brothers were accused last year in a civil action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission of insider trading to the tune of $550 million. The Wylys denied the allegations and the SEC’s suit is still pending.

Highway 82 was reduced to one lane in each direction for about three hours after the crash, and the highway’s upvalley lanes closed intermittently as emergency responders attended to the scene.

Wyly is survived by wife Dee, his college sweetheart. He had four children: Martha Miller, Chip Wyly, Emily Wyly and Jennifer Lincoln; and seven grandchildren: Trey, Carla, Christopher and Dulaney Miller; Wyly and Jessica Lincoln; and Meghan Lindsey.

Memorial arrangements are in the works, with an announcement sometime this week.


curtis@aspendailynews.com